How to Pick an Instrument for your Child?

Here are some frequent questions we get from parents who are interested in putting their children into music lessons for the first time.   We hope you find the below article helpful, and please call for any further free information.  If your child doesn’t have a special inclination toward a particular instrument, its a good idea for you and your child to get educated on each option.   

———————————————————————————————

Piano Lessons

Advised starting age 4-5

Pros:

  1. Great starting instrument, mostly because margin for error is low and it’s very visual.
  2. Sound great the first time you hit a key (in contrast to stringed instuments).
  3. You can learn your favorite melody quickly, perhaps a month.
  4. Combines harmony and melody to get a satisfying complete musical piece, unlike voice or strings where it’s generally just one note at a time.

Cons:

  1. Reading is slower to learn because you have to learn both clefs. (L.H. and R.H.) Stringed instruments are generally one line at a time.
  2. Generally less opportunities for ensemble playing.
  3. Heavy and permanent rather than portable.

————————————————————————————

Guitar Lessons

Advised starting age 7

Pros:

  1. Huge range of styles and genres to explore
  2. Portable for practice during travel
  3. Strong Ensemble possibilities

Cons:

  1. The strings can be tiring to press down against the fretts, calluses must develop
  2. Harder to play melodies with chords, (It’s much easier to learn chords on guitar).  This can make it less satisfying if the child really wants to hear the melody and harmony.

——————————————————————————————–

Violin Lessons

Advised starting age 5

Pros:

  1. Reading music is easier as its one note at a time rather than piano, (which is many).
  2. Portable for traveling.
  3. Huge range of potential repertoire.
  4. Extremely versatile both as a solo and ensemble instrument.

Cons:

  1. Can take a few months to make a nice sound
  2. The hand that presses down the strings, (Generally L.H.) Can be uncomfortable for a while, especially for small children.
  3. While it’s beautiful as a solo instrument, you generally get one note at a time.  (The piano allows the student to hear and understand the harmony as well.

———————————————————————————————

Voice Lessons

Advised Starting Age:

Gentle singing with piano to build ear and musical abilities:  3-5

Gentle technique 7-13

Serious technical training (such as opera) after voice develops fully (13-16).

 

Pros:

  1. Every imaginable style of music to explore.
  2. Powerful because of words and meaning plus musical lines
  3. Great for self esteem and presentational skills, much more presentational skill is required from other instruments.

Cons:

  1. One note at a time, generally less satisfying without accompaniment, unlike piano, where the full picture of music can be played.
  2. Generally less emphasis on reading music and on understanding music theory and structure as a whole.

———————————————————————————————

Cello Lessons

Advises starting age 5-6

 

Pros:

  1. Easier to read music, one line at a time.
  2. Generally comfortable to hold and feel natural.
  3. Vast repertoire of styles and genres to explore.
  4. Beautiful as a solo instrument and equally versatile as an ensemble instrument.

Cons:

  1. Bulky and heavy to transport.
  2. The hand that presses down the strings, (generally the L.H., can be uncomfortable in that it stretches the fingers, also the strings are heavier from say violin and harder to press down.

 

Should my child decide or should I pick what is best for him/her?

 

This depends on how certain your child feels about the instrument they would like to learn.

It’s also important to consider if you think your child is ready to take on the challenges of the instrument itself, and if the child has the qualities of discipline that might be necessary at some points in the journey.   If your child is not very focused for example, and wants to learn guitar at age 4, we might advise you to begin with piano first, simply because they will get results quicker which may help to inspire. If however there really seems to be an affinity or fascination with an instrument, even if its it’s a bit early, this interest can work can be the fuel to overcome the challenges when they arise.  If undecided, it’s best to try trial classes with a few instruments, taking into account the advice above, and see what each one feels like. Opinions often quickly change after a child takes the first lesson and starts to see what the learning process is like.

 

Caution Against Switching Instruments too Fast

 

Once your child picks an instrument, or you pick it for them, we advise parents to help support the practice process and gently advise the child to stay with that instrument for a while.   We have seen kids that became frustrated with the challenges of one instrument, give up after a couple months and try another. Most of the time, they hit a similar obstacle with the new instrument.   While it’s TRUE that certain instruments are better suited to some people, make sure if you are switching your child’s instruments it’s not because of a habit of quitting when things get tough. There are a lot of benefits to the self esteem in conquering challenges when they arise.

 

How Involved should I be in the beginning of lessons with the Instructor?

 

We welcome parents to observe the lessons and to support the child’s progress.  

This is similar to advise we would give to a company about how to handle employees.   Be interested and involved, but don’t micromanage.

Some things not to do during your kids music lesson

  1. Don’t correct the child unless absolutely necessary.
  2. Don’t instruct the teacher during the lesson.
  3. Don’t be too pushy with what piece of music you want your kid to learn.

 

The main reason for this, is that controlling the lesson can get in the way of the Instructors process.    Some great instructors may take time doing something like a game for example, that might not seem to be as educational, but has enormous value in creating interest in the beginning.   The authority of the instructor is very important. This is especially hard with parents who have a strong musical background and and have a perspective on how their child should learn.

Suggestions to the instructor can be helpful, but should be done discreetly, never in front of the teacher and student.   Preserving the sense of reverence and respect for the instructor is very important to the students progress. Also, as with switching instruments, give the instructor time to do their job before making a conclusion about their quality level.